Fort Lewis aims for 25th national title at home – the Durango Herald


National championships start Thursday in Purgatory

Ruth Holcomb of Durango competes in the Ska Zia Town series on September 29. This week, Holcomb and her Fort Lewis teammates will compete in the Collegiate Nationals at the Purgatory Resort. (Jerry McBride / Durango Herald file)

Collegiate cycling teams from across the country will be heading to Purgatory Resort this week to compete in the US National Collegiate Mountain Bike Championships starting Thursday.

Fort Lewis College Cycling will send a team of 24 varsity runners to compete in five events.

The National Championship event signals the ambition of Durango’s cycling community to further solidify its mountain bike racing heritage. Although the city has previously hosted various cycling events, Durango and Purgatory became famous in the cycling world when they hosted the very first UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in 1990. The World Cup circuit of Mountain biking first came to town in 2001 and 2002, but the years since have seen only a handful of events.

Now, organizers hope to build on the legacy of Durango, home to Olympic, national and world champion athletes, to host more top-level events, and the collegiate championships are one of the first pedal strokes on the road. along this trail.

“It takes us back to the 1990s and 2001s,” said Dave Hagen, event technical director. “This could be the start of some great races coming back to Durango. “

Hagen also leads the Fort Lewis College cycling team as program director, and the team hopes to win their 25th home collegiate team title. The last time the team won the collegiate mountain bike championships was in 2018 in Missoula, MT. The current champion is Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, which edged out FLC in 2019. The 2020 event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so CMU retained its 2019 title.

The nearby University of Western Slope remains a rival to FLC, but Hagen has confidence in her team, which includes both subclasses and subclasses, especially in the women’s categories. OFLC’s rivals in the academic category are Lees-McRae College in North Carolina and Marian University in Indiana.

While the runners have practice sessions and qualifying rounds on Thursday, the bulk of the races begin on Friday. That morning, the varsity and club division cross-country racers will set off in pursuit of the weekend’s first stars and stripes jersey. They will be followed by the men.

The cross-country course will mirror the course of the 1990 World Championships, a race won by Ned Overend of Durango. Runners will climb to over 1,000 feet and cover just over 5 miles each lap on a course that culminates at nearly 10,000 feet above sea level.

“The XC course is very close to being identical to the 1990 World Championships course,” said Hagen. “They put laces at the bottom of the demon ravine to ease the sting a bit.”

FLC’s cross-country teams will be led by Michaela Thompson and Guy Leshem with Durango residents Ruth Holcomb and Cobe Freeburn also as strong contenders.

“It’s really exciting to race at home,” said Holcomb in an FLC press release. “Durango has always supported the sport, and being on a home course with home fans is super special. The course has a lot of history, and it is one of the most difficult courses we will be racing on this season. It has a very steep climb and looks like a higher level than the other courses we have been on this fall.

Thompson was the strongest female cross country racer in FLC, recently taking third place in the CMU Rumble race at Powderhorn. Freshman Holcomb finished second in the CU Buffaloes in Snowmass race. Leshem won the Oredigger Challenge race in Granby, while Freeburn’s best result during the college regular season was a fourth place finish in the same race.

After the cross-country ski race on Friday, there will be the double slalom event, which is similar to the alpine ski event of the same name. Racers compete against each other on specially designed parallel tracks with challenging turns, jumps and obstacles, creating some of the best spectator action of the weekend.

The Skyhawk’s top prospects in the doubles slalom event are also favored in Sunday’s downhill race. Seniors Cole Fiene and Will Farmer have both won downhill races this season. On the women’s side, Fiona Dougherty has collected five first places this year. She will be joined by Irish national champion and sophomore McKenna Merten, who has been on the podium four times this season.

Saturday: classification laps downhill

After the downhill classification laps on Saturday (where Sunday’s starting order is determined), the afternoon will see the short track cross country races. Taking place in the base area around Purgatory Elevator 1, the 0.6 mile course will be great spectator action. Short runs favor hard-hitting runners with the anaerobic ability to produce high power numbers.

Sunday morning’s downhill finals will be one of the most visually stunning events and will follow the course of the 2001 World Cup. Daring riders will traverse grassy bends at high speed before descending a series of vertical drops on the Upper Catharsis ski slope. . The trail then descends a series of brake chutes as it descends until you reach the base area.

The downhill trail was upgraded by trail building company Singletrack Trails over the summer, and runners gave it rave reviews as one of the toughest courses of the year after the Big Mountain race. August Enduro organized in Purgatory.

The downhill course “is still revered in the gravity world for being steep and rowdy,” Hagen said.

FLC Cycling coach and alumnus Elle Runyan still holds the 2019 women’s downhill title.

Sunday: team relay

The last event on Sunday will be the team relay race, which often decides the omnium team competition. In the omnium, points are awarded in each individual race and counted at the end to determine the winning teams in the championship.

The team relay race consists of four laps on a shortened version of the cross-country course, similar to the relay events seen in track and field. Each school must field at least one female runner and a woman must complete at least two laps of the race. Big teams, like the FLC, usually field two men and two women, each completing a round. Strategy comes into play when teams decide the order in which to start each runner.

“You see all the teams in full glory running the trails, shouting as loud as they can for their teammates,” said Hagen. “A super special event for sure.”

There is also an individual all-round competition, where individual riders are awarded points in each race they participate in, but that is not an explicit goal for FLC this year, Hagen said.

Purgatory Resort, which has expanded its mountain bike trail offering in recent years, is eager to showcase the mountain’s challenging trail system.

“Purgatory is thrilled to host the US National Collegiate Mountain Bike Championships in Durango,” said Dave Rathbun, general manager of Purgatory Resort, in a press release. “We are fortunate to have some of the best cyclists in North America to attract one of America’s premier cycling events in Purgatory. We look forward to hosting more events like this in the Durango region. “

USA Cycling, the national governing body of competitive cycling, is relieved to see the event unfold after two previous attempts to host in the Durnago area.

“USA Cycling is thrilled to welcome the Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals to historic Durango, Colorado,” said Justin Evans, USA Cycling’s college and youth program manager. “After two previous attempts were canceled, 2019 due to forest fires and 2020 due to COVID, we are delighted that the third time is the charm! Durango will be home to the best university mountain biking athletes and we are set for a few fantastic days of racing. “

FLC Cycling not only wrapped up its regular season this fall, but the team also hosted cyclists from the region at their annual Durango Fall Blaze fundraising event. According to Hagen, the event raised around $ 50,000 in net profits, 100% of which supports the cycling program in the form of scholarships for athletes and helps cover the running costs of the team of over 100 participants from the university and the club.

The National Championships will coincide with FLC Reunion Weekend, which will also include soccer and football matches on campus. Race organizers and the FLC hope students, alumni and community fans can come to Purgatory to cheer on the cyclists as well as the games on campus.

Volunteers are also needed for bike races throughout the weekend. Interested volunteers can register for a time slot at

Calendar of events at Purgatory Resort


3:00 p.m. Double slalom qualifications, all divisions.


8:00 a.m. University women’s cross-country.

8:10 am Women’s cross-country ski club.

10:30 am Men’s university cross-country.

10:40 am Men’s cross-country ski club.

4:30 p.m. Double slalom final, all divisions.


9.45 am Classification of the descent, men’s club. Other divisions will follow.

1:00 p.m. Men’s short track club.

1:45 p.m. University men’s short track.

2:30 p.m. Short track women’s club.

3:15 p.m., women’s short track university.


10:30 am Finals Downhill, women’s club. All divisions to follow.

2:00 p.m. Club relay team.

2:45 p.m. Team relay, university. Final rewards will follow.


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